The Carl Junction girls basketball team took a big step toward securing a Central Ozark Conference crown with Thursday’s 65-57 win over Ozark.

With three games remaining on the conference slate, the Bulldogs are now all alone on top of the COC standings at 6-0. Ozark and Nixa are both 5-1, while Republic is 4-2.

Bulldogs coach Brad Shorter noted a conference title is always a goal.

“We’re the smallest school in the COC, and we were fortunate enough to win it a few years back,” Shorter said. “We’ve been up there toward the top for the last few years, and I think that says a lot about our girls basketball program. It’s going to be tough from here on out, but I think this win will really help us down the road.”

Carl Junction’s final COC dates are at home against Joplin (0-6) on Tuesday, at Branson (2-3) on Feb. 21 and at home against Nixa on Feb. 24.

After a recent loss to Ozark, Nixa still has to play Republic, and the Tigers beat the Eagles 60-47 at the Nixa Tournament.

FULL-COURT PRESS

The Bulldogs, who trailed by 16 in the third quarter, ended the game on a 28-4 burst. Going to a full-court press was key to the come-from-behind victory.

“I was a little hesitant to put a press on against them because they’re guard-heavy and so many of their kids can handle the ball,” Shorter said. “We stayed with it. We got some steals and tips, and we sped them up to force a quick shot or a turnover.”

“We thought they might not be used to being full-court pressed by a team with our length,” Bulldogs senior Katie Scott said. “I think our length disturbed them and made them throw tougher passes.”

FREE THROWS

Carl Junction made 25-of-33 free throws on Thursday night, including 15 makes in the fourth quarter.

Shorter noted his team has some extra incentive as far as the charity stripe.

“We’ve had this deal if we shot over 70 percent from the free throw line I’d buy them all ice cream,” Shorter said. “We’ve been shooting over 80 percent the last four games. They just asked me, ‘Can we go get a shake tomorrow?’ We’ll see.”

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